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Table of Contents

5 Dead Auto Brands and Why They Died

Ever since Henry Ford's Model T car popularized automobiles in 1908, companies have worked tirelessly to design, manufacture, market, and sell new and improved car models.

Unfortunately, some car brands associated with even the largest, most successful car manufacturers have been challenged in terms of sales and have had to be discontinued. Whether it was out of financial necessity or the desire to streamline product lines, here are five car brands that have stopped production.

Key Takeaways

  • Some car brands associated with even the largest, most successful car manufacturers have been challenged in terms of sales and have had to be discontinued.
  • The Ford Motor Company's Mercury brand and General Motors's Hummer, Pontiac, Saturn, and Oldsmobile brands have all been discontinued.
  • Since personal vehicles were invented, in 1885 and 1886, the automobile industry has faced different obstacles, from rising fuel costs and changes in consumer spending habits to increased volatility in raw materials pricing.
  • As a result, the automobile industry has been forced to streamline its production at times in order to respond to such a dynamic business climate, leaving some brands behind.

Ford Mercury

Mercury is a brand of The Ford Motor Company (F) that was in existence for a little more than 70 years. Ford ended the production of the model in the fourth quarter of 2010. Mercury was originally created to offer Ford customers a premium vehicle. However, the popularity and corresponding sales of Ford-branded vehicles had left the Mercury brand weak, with many of its loyal customers electing to drive Ford models.

Mercury's market share had been flat or declining for years prior to its discontinuation, and Ford Motor Company decided to focus its attention on the Ford brand and its personal luxury car unit, the Lincoln brand. Lincoln is one of the top luxury brands in the United States.

Hummer

In February 2010, General Motors Co. (GM) announced it would be phasing out its Hummer brand after an unsuccessful attempt to sell the brand to a Chinese manufacturer. The Hummer car is a civilian model of a popular military vehicle, called the Humvee, that is primarily used by the U.S. military and gained widespread usage during the Gulf War in 1991. Towards the end of its lifespan, the Hummer faced challenges as consumers became more conscious about vehicle gas mileage. As consumers pressed for more fuel-efficient vehicles, General Motors took criticism from environmental groups.

On Jan. 30, 2020, General Motors released a series of short teaser videos, revealing the return of the Hummer model. However, this time the car will be known as the GMC Hummer EV and it will consist of two models: an electric SUV and a truck sub-brand. The pickup truck will be called the Hummer EV SUT, and the SUV will be called the Hummer EV SUV.

Pontiac

A brand of General Motors, Pontiac made vehicles and muscle cars that defined an era, with legendary models such as the GTO and Trans Am. Though Pontiac was at one time one of the top-selling brands in the United States, its leadership was unable to devise a strategy that would allow the Pontiac brand to continue. In business since 1926, Pontiac was discontinued in April 2009.

77.9 million

The number of motor vehicles produced by the automobile industry in 2020.

Saturn

General Motors halted production of its Saturn brand in October 2009 after a failed deal with the Penske Automotive Group. Saturn, with a vehicle line that included mostly small to mid-size cars, had been around since 1985 but was never profitable.

General Motors filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy in 2009 and was the recipient of a bailout– specifically U.S. government TARP loans–following the economic meltdown of 2008. Under scrutiny to pay back loans and become a sustainable corporation, General Motors has been forced to streamline its brands and focus on the lines that have the most growth potential.

Oldsmobile

Another General Motors brand, Oldsmobile was founded as the Olds Motor Vehicle Company in 1897. Oldsmobile became a part of General Motors in 1908. Oldsmobile was the first brand to be manufactured with fully automatic transmissions, which debuted in the 1940 Hydra-Matic models.

Competitive with both Chevrolet and Ford, Oldsmobile's Cutlass series became the best-selling car in the United States in 1976. General Motors shut down Oldsmobile in 2004 because of its unprofitability.

What Is the Oldest Car Brand Still in Production?

Founded in 1883, the German carmaker Mercedes-Benz is the oldest car brand still being produced today.

What Is the Oldest Model of Car Still Made Today?

The Chevrolet Suburban , with seating for up to eight people, was first introduced in 1935, making it the oldest model still produced.

Did Henry Ford Invent the Automobile?

No. While the Ford Motor Company was important in innovating the mass production of cars in the United States, Henry Ford did not invent the automobile. The actual inventor is still a matter of debate, but historians suggest it is likely to be the German inventor Karl Benz.

The Bottom Line

The automobile industry has faced many different obstacles since personal vehicles were invented. As a result, the automobile industry has been forced to streamline its production at times in order to respond to such a dynamic business climate. This led to several auto brands being discontinued; though one, the Hummer, made a more sustainable comeback in 2020.

Article Sources
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  1. Ford Motor Company. "Mercury."

  2. Lincoln Media Center. "Lincoln Takes Top Luxury Brand in AutoPacific Awards; Navigator Earns Top Vehicle Overall."

  3. General Motors Company. "Hummer Sale to Tengzhong Cannot be Completed."

  4. History Division United States Marine Corps. "U.S. Marines in the Gulf War, 1990–1991," Pages 94-95.

  5. General Motors Company. "The Quiet Revolution Charges On: First Ever GMC Hummer EV."

  6. The Zimmerman Automobile Driving Museum. "Remembering The Pontiac."

  7. European Automobile Manufacturers Association. "World Motor Vehicle Production."

  8. U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission. "Form 10-K," Page 2.

  9. The New York Times. "G.M. Starts Saturn Car Subsidiary."

  10. U.S. Department of the Treasury. "GM Repays Treasury Loan in Full, TARP Repayments Reach $186 Billion GM Repayment of Remaining $4.7 Billion in Debt Comes Five Years Ahead of Maturity Date."

  11. U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission. "Response of the Office of Chief Counsel Division of Corporation Finance."

  12. General Motors. "This Is the New GM," Pages 4-10. 

  13. The New York Times. "Historical Illustrations From Brochure Collection of Steve Hayes."

  14. R.E. Olds Foundation. "About Us."

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